• Fri, Jul 1 2011

Food Is Fashionable: Oreo Cameos, Now With Feminist Theory

It’s a well known fact that Oreos are delicious. Something about their combo of black dye, high fructose corn syrup, and whatever synthetic sludge they use to make the “creme” (it’s vegan!) just adds up to heaven on the tongue. It’s also a well known fact that cameo portraits are a super cute way to add some vintage whimsy to your look without going full Zooey on everyone. Hence, it stands to reason that a cameo made of Oreos would be doubly nice. They are two great tastes that taste great together.

But wait, it gets sweeter. These neat little pieces were made by artist Judith C. Klausner, whose food-related work also includes condiment wallpaper(!) and embroidered toast. Her statement of intent is refreshingly coherent for the modern art world, invoking the history of food and handicraft production as women’s work and cautioning us not to romanticize those things too much (whether or not we choose to engage in them), as they symbolize a past when us girls weren’t allowed to do much else:

The phrase, “like grandma used to make” gets nearly 300,000 results in a Google search. This nostalgia for the culinary past—before packaged foods and high-fructose corn syrup—fails to take into consideration just how much time it takes to make three full meals a day from scratch. Indeed, what it takes is a person in every household who’s full-time job it is to cook for the family. We called these people “women”.

Like the production of food, a variety of handicrafts were a mundane requirement of the female gender. Today, as we come to realize that something has been lost in the mechanization of everything around us, there is a return to the idea that making something from its most basic parts has great value. Sewing, embroidery, and knitting have enjoyed resurgences, sometimes even within the realm of fine art. Home cooking is once again gaining popularity. Within this atmosphere, the temptation to romanticize the past is strong. Yet, the availability of packaged foods is what allows us the time to pursue careers, to develop new technologies, to create.

The food on our tables may not be as tasty as it once was. It may not even be as wholesome. But it is important to take a step back and recognize the trade that has been made, and that what we have gained is not to be undervalued.

My work is about choice. As a woman in the twenty-first century, I can choose to spend my day baking a loaf of bread, or to grab a package off a grocery store shelf after a long day at work. I can choose to spend my evenings embroidering. I can choose to combine these things and call it art.

I agree with this 100%. Furthermore, it might be the first artist’s statement I’ve read in quite some time that did not sound to me like the grown-ups sound to the children in the “Peanuts” cartoon, and/or like randomly selected strings of buzzwords one learns in one’s Introduction To Postmodernism class. Craft on, no-bullshit art lady. Craft on.

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